Have you heard about the earthquake that has shaken Wall Street to its very core? Well, brace yourself, for this really is a shocker: Bonus payments are down.
Yes, the exorbitant bonus checks pocketed each year by the Goldman Sachers, Citigropers and other financial tinkerers have been cut by about 25 percent this year, and — oh! — you should hear the Wall Streeters moaning the hard-times, down-and-out banker blues.
"It's a disaster," sobbed one. "The entire construct of compensation has changed."
Many Americans, of course, will say ... "Good! About time!" And it is difficult in these times of middle-class collapse and rising poverty to get teary-eyed over a few financial swells getting a trim. But, come on, Wall Street bankers are human, too (aren't they?) — so open your hearts to their pain.
A hedge-fund manager, for example, says he'll now have to strain to pay his $7,500 annual dues to remain a member of the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester. Plus, he worries about food, health care and boarding. Not for him and his family, but for his two dogs — he's been laying out $17,000 a year for upkeep of his labradoodle and bichon frise, including around $5,000 to hire a dog-walker to take them out each day. He might resort to walking them himself a couple times a week.
The crunch is so bad that one financier confesses that he now shops for discounted salmon for dinner and has had to give up his annual ski trip to Aspen, Colo. And a high-dollar accountant who does financial planning for the wealthy practically weeps for clients who are having to cut back.
Empathizing with the stress of it all, he asks: "Could you imagine what it's like to say, 'I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out?' How do you do that?" Dabbing his eyes with tissues, he adds that these people have been raking in around $500,000 a year, and they never dreamed "that they'd be broke."
Broke? We should all be as "broke" as they are.
Are these one-percenters actually worth their bonus checks, even at this year's discounted level? Well, one of the top one-tenth-of-one-percenters, Lloyd Blankfein, says: Hell yes! CEO of Goldman Sachs, Blankfein has sacked up a multimillion personal fortune in bonus cash, but he claims to be worth every penny because he's doing "God's work."
Whoa — that would be one very mean god! Blankfein actually is an ungodly angel of avarice, who turned his once-proud investment house into a casino of greed that was a central player in Wall Street's crash of our economy. But don't take my word for it. He has now been burned by one of his own — a Goldman Sachs executive who got so fed up with the "toxic and destructive" culture fostered by Blankfein that he has resigned and gone public with the banking giant's internal ugliness.
Greg Smith, a 12-year veteran with Goldman and head of one of its major divisions, penned a March 14 New York Times op-ed piece declaring, "It makes me ill how callously (Goldman bankers) talk about ripping their clients off." Forget about the quaint notion that banks are meant to serve the public good, Smith confirms that his fellow financiers no longer care about serving the good of their own customers, instead focusing laser-like on enriching the bankers themselves.
Rather than helping clients, he writes, "it's purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them." Smith pointedly adds that this crass selfishness all comes from the top, noting that it's now common to hear Goldman's managing directors privately deride their own clients as "muppets" — stupid people who're easily manipulated. The ruling ethic is — by hook or crook — to haul in bags of client gold for Goldman. If you do that, he writes, "(and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence."
Remember, these are the people you and I were forced to bail out, yet far from showing even a modicum of humility or gratitude, their narcissism is now so extreme that it's even causing bankers to gag!
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.